Leading chef and restaurateur Adam Handling has thrown in his support to pressure for a reduction in Business rates in Central London, saying that if Westminster Council doesn’t rein in its excessive Business rates increases, the vibrancy of Central London’s world-leading restaurant scene will be in jeopardy.
Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden has been threatened with massive rises. “We’ve had three Business rates increases since we purchased the property in September, including a demand (which we are disputing) for an additional payment of £40,000 which has come out of nowhere, and which has been marked for immediate payment.
“We’ve heard a lot about recent closures within several restaurant groups because of rates hikes, but as an independent operator, I can tell you that we’re all hurting from the greedy demands of London councils, especially Westminster.
“It’s so short-sighted of the councils; London’s restaurant scene has been a big draw for spending, whether it’s from residents, workers or tourists, and there won’t be any rates for them to collect if central London streets are full of shuttered shops and closed-down restaurants.
“I understand that the West End Partnership is looking to help councils keep more of the local Business rates they charge so that they can raise nearly half a million pounds to finance infrastructure investment. We’re all for improvements, but not when they threaten the livelihood of business owners and their staff.”
According to the British Retail Consortium, Business rates have become unsustainable and must be lowered to allow companies to invest.
In 1990, Business rates were set at a third of the rental value of a property. Now, businesses must pay out roughly half the rental value of the property they occupy in additional taxes. Commercial property taxes in the UK are now the highest in Europe, and across all OECD countries.
City A.M. revealed earlier this month that Oxford Street retailers such as John Lewis, Debenhams and Topshop are all facing Business rate rises of around 45 per cent for the year 2017 to 2018. The British retail sector as a whole will have to pay £2bn more in Business rates over the next three years.
Jamie Oliver’s restaurants faced a 28% rise in Business rates this year, which has contributed to making his operations unsustainable, and Adam Handling says that the rest of the industry could easily go the same way: “If Westminster Council wants Central London to be bereft of any decent, innovative and distinctive restaurants, they’re going the right way about it. We’re going to end up with empty and unlettable restaurant sites because even the chains won’t pay crazy premiums, over the top rents and excessive Business rates.”